Mediterranean specialties for Passover


Most of us have favourites that we rely on every Passover. I, too, have to cook and bake some of the same things every year, and I love doing so because I know it will please my family and guests.

I have been serving the same brisket recipe for the past decade or so because everyone arrives looking forward to it. But I also accompany it with another dish.

Mediterranean spices
Mediterranean spices

I like to pay homage to other Jewish cuisines. The Cornish hen recipe takes its lead from Moroccan cuisine with its emphasis on paprika, coriander, ginger and garlic. The fig charoset is somewhat sweet and sour, the perfect mortar for your seder plate. And the Candied Citrus Salad with Mint and Ginger is a sweet antidote to the richness of the main meal.

Candied citrus salad with mint and ginger

If you prefer, you can slice the oranges instead of sectioning them and cook them in the sugar syrup to remove the bitterness from the rind.

o 4 large navel oranges
o 1 large pink grapefruit
o 3/4 cup granulated sugar
o 1/4 cup chopped crystallized or candied ginger
o 2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint

Using a sharp knife, cut away the peel from the oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith. Working over a bowl to catch the juices, cut the oranges in between the membranes to release the orange sections into the bowl. Repeat with the grapefruit.

Transfer all of the segments to a serving bowl, reserving the juices for another use.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and 1/4 cup of water. Cook over medium to medium-high heat, without stirring, until the sugar is syrupy and the bubbles have thickened but the mixture has not yet caramelized, about 5 minutes. Immediately pour over the citrus. Let cool at room temperature. Stir in the ginger and the mint. Serve at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Fig charoset

o 1/4 cup kosher for Passover apple cider vinegar
o 1/4 cup granulated sugar
o 1/4 cup white wine
o 1/4 cup diced onion
o 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
o 1 cup diced dried figs
o 1/4 cup diced pitted dates
o 1/4 cup chopped roasted pistachio
o 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
o pinch ground cinnamon
o pinch ground cardamom

Put the vinegar, sugar and wine into a small saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the onions and apple and cook until the onions are translucent, about 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, then stir in the figs, dates, pistachios, dried apricots and ground spices. Set aside to let cool before serving. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

Honey glazed cornish hens with matzah stuffing

It may seem as though the matzah stuffing is too dry, but please don’t be tempted to add more stock. Since the stuffing is cooked under the Cornish hens, the natural juices from the birds moisten it further. I do urge you to line your pan with parchment or aluminum foil, or the birds and the stuffing will be difficult to transfer to a serving platter or individual plates.

o 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
o 8 oz. chopped button mushrooms
o 1 onion, chopped
o 1 carrot, diced
o 1 rib celery, diced
o 3 large cloves garlic, minced
o/4 tsp. salt
o 1/2 tsp. pepper
o 6 sheets matzah, broken into 1-inch o pieces
o 1 cup chicken broth (or a little more)
o 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Cornish hens:
o Cornish hens (each about 1-1/4 lb)
o 1/2 cup honey
o 1 tsp. paprika
o 1 tsp. ground coriander
o 1tsp. lemon juice
o 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
o 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
o 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper

Matzah-stuff cornish hens FINE COOKING PHOTO
Matzah-stuff cornish hens FINE COOKING PHOTO

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet set over medium heat. Add the mushrooms; cook, stirring, for 10 minutes. Add the onion, celery, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in the matzah. Pour the chicken stock over. Simmer until most of the matzah is softened and the broth has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro. Don’t worry if some of the matzah is just barely soft. The juices from the Cornish hens will further soften it.

Cut the wing tips from the hens. Cut through the backbones and then through the breastbone to divide each hen in half; trim excess fat and skin. Evenly space 8 mounds of the matzah on an aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Cover each mound with a hen half, cut side down.

In a small bowl, stir together the honey, paprika, coriander, ginger, lemon juice, cinnamon and pepper. Brush evenly over the hens. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven until browned, the juices run clear when the hens are pierced with a fork and a meat thermometer registers 185, 40 to 45 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Photo: ChowHound